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POB BOE Says Goodbye To Retirees, Superintendent Dempsey

While the latest meeting of the POB CSD Board of Education may have opened with song and dance, the final meeting of the year was a somber affair: the district said goodbye to many retirees, including Deputy Superintendent, Office of Human Resources Arthur Jonas and Superintendent Gerard Dempsey Jr.

The Monday, June 18 meeting opened with a performance of God Bless America by the B-Sharps, the district’s all male a capella group, who went on to perform other songs in their polished, barbershop quartet style. Following the vocal group, the full cast of the high school’s recent production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying took to the stage to perform a medley of numbers from the show.

In board announcements, board president Gary Bettan reported sitting on a newly formed district leadership committee that includes individuals from the teachers’ union, the administrators union, the PTA, central administration, and the board. According to Bettan, the goal of the new committee is to form strategies to combat what they view as attacks on public education from the state and federal levels.

“As we have said many times over the past year, public education is under attack,” said Bettan. “Outside forces are trying to take away local control, forcing unfunded mandates upon us while reducing funding.”

After a student recognition ceremony, featuring many awards that have been featured in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald in recent weeks, it was time to say goodbye to a large group of retirees. First, Jonas recognized Virginia Schatzberg, who served the district as a security aide at the high school for 30 years.

“Virginia is much more than just a security aide: she is a mom to all our boys and girls at the high school, and she has been for years,” said Jonas, going on to say that Schatzberg is someone the students trust and turn to in times of need. POBJFK High School Principal James Murray added that Schatzberg has saved lives with her thoughtful intervention.

Jonas also recognized Rosemary Cuoco, who taught art at Mattlin for 25 years. Cuoco could not be at the meeting, but Jonas said that she influenced hundreds of students with her love of the arts.

Next, Principal Murray took the floor to recognize several retirees from the high school. Rochelle Morgan, who taught art at POBJFK HS as well as served as advisor for the art club, will be retiring after nearly 20 years of service to the district. “We’re going to miss that pleasant voice and that big smile of yours,” said Murray to Morgan.

Paul J. Dallara, an assistant principal at the high school since 1997, was praised for his endearing nature as a “big teddy bear.” Dallara oversaw the substitute teacher program, coordinated reports to the state, was the administrator for the driver’s education program, and chaperoned trips, in addition to many other responsibilities. Dallara is retiring after 42 years in education.

Cindy Feldman, library media specialist at POBJFK since 1985, was credited with the development and maintenance of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center at the library, as well as other exhibits that have received widespread attention.

Philip J. Luccio, a physical education teacher, was praised for being “very easy to work with, very responsible, reliable, and really gave it his best effort at all points in time.” Luccio worked for the district for 28 years. Murray also acknowledged Domenica Miniaci, an aide with 42 years of experience at POB who is leaving her position to take care of her family. Murray wished Miniaci and her husband good health.

Next, Principal John McNamara of POB Middle School acknowledged Loretta Dressler, a special education teacher who has worked at POBMS since 1966. “She has been at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School since the time that it became a middle school, and certainly has been an integral part of our building,” said McNamara. As Dressler pointed out herself at her own retirement party, her 46 years of service to the district is actually 47 if you include her student teaching.

Suzanne Grey, principal of Old Bethpage Elementary School, was the next to acknowledge retirees from her building. She bestowed high praise on Lesley Bank, a teacher at the school since 1989 who led staff development for colleagues among other contributions to the district. “Mrs. Bank is the daily reminder of why we do what we do. Her ability to stay fresh and relevant is such a unique gift,” said Grey.

Grey also had glowing things to say about Linda J. Kagen, who has worked in the district for over 20 years. “Her literacy training represents her eternal quest to make herself better at every turn; to reach the heights of her profession…when I think of Linda Kagen I think of reading, writing, more reading and more writing.”

Moving onto retirees at the district level, Jonas explained that before Kevin McDermott assumed the role of district athletic coordinator in 1997, there had been a lot of turnover in the position. However, McDermott proved equal to the task. “He watched over these kids, he grew the athletic program to one that is unsurpassed at any district of this size,” said Jonas.

Not long after Jonas had finished recognizing other retirees, it was time for the administration and the board to recognize him for his own upcoming retirement. “Five years ago, when I first came to the district, there had been some turmoil in the community over the subject of mathematics…and one steadying influence, and that was art,” said Dempsey. Dempsey went on to say that Jonas had a great ability to produce trust and create results, while board member Ginger Lieberman praised Jonas for his humility, sense of humor, and fairness to everyone. Before becoming Deputy Superintendent, Jonas served as the chair of the math department and the high school principal; he has been with the district since 1988.

Finally, it was time to acknowledge the superintendent himself. “You certainly came here in a time of turmoil, and what you brought to the district was a calm leadership that allowed the boat to be steadied…I think we have all grown and learned about leadership by following your calm demeanor,” said Bettan, going on to say that Dempsey helped the board members to understand the true importance of school climate: everything that goes on in school besides learning subjects. Several other board members praised Dempsey for his wisdom, his selflessness, and his ability to give his colleagues good advice.

For Dempsey, this was actually his second retirement; he first attempted to retire in 2001. After the ceremony, he went on an emotional trip to Ireland that was rendered more emotional by a catastrophic event: 9/11. “When I returned, I had a very deep feeling that I was missing something, and that was the responsibility for being responsible for children,” said Dempsey, who came out of retirement not long after.

“I really want to say thank you to this board and this community for giving me a second chance…I feel like a second opportunity to be a superintendent, to be responsible for children in a community that cares for them as much as this community does, has been a great treasure,” said Dempsey.

Other retirees this year are Sheila Davidson (typist/clerk, Mattlin), Evelyn Helmers (typist/clerk, Old Bethpage Elementary School), Anita Orenzow (stenographer, POBMS), Rose Loesel (aide, POBMS), Irene Mango (aide, Parkway), Florence Noto (aide, Parkway), John Celenza (custodian, Stratford Road), and Isabel Reyes (cleaner, POBJFK HS.)

After all of the presentations, the board received a report on the district’s Middle School Advisory (MAP) program. According to the MAP committee, the extension of MAP activities has been very well received by students in both middle schools. Meanwhile, the committee continues to discuss and refine the goals of MAP, which is a short class focused on character education held at the beginning of the school day.

The next meeting of the board of education will be a reorganization meeting for the 2012-2013 school year; a date for the meeting is not listed on the district website at this time.